Words of Wisdom

Photo credits: Anthony DeNaro photo by Bill H; Thelma Goldberg photo by Robert Rosen; Toni Pierce-Sands photo by Ingrid Werthmann; Samara Atkins photo by Briana Gardener; Gregg Russell photo courtesy Gregg Russell; Susan Bennett photo by Rebecca Arvisu; Bill Evans photo by Kevin Colton; Sandi Duncan photo by Kimi Duncan; David Arce photo by Becky Montalvo; Patrick Corbin photo by Carolyn DiLoretto; Tricia Gomez photo by Arthur Crenshaw; Teri Mangiaratti photo by Gary Antle; Nina Pinzarrone photo courtesy Nina Pinzarrone; Stacy Eastman photo courtesy Stacy Eastman; Michelle Cote photo by Mim Adkins; Mignon Furman photo by Richard Calmes; Geo Hubela photo by Michael Higgins; Amber Perkins photo by Jonathan Sherry.

A 23-columnist salute to 11 years of ideas, insight, and inspiration

by Tamsin Nutter

Some days you just need a little advice and encouragement—whether on preschoolers, degagés, or taxes—to pin on the staff bulletin board or mull over in the bathtub at night, from a trusted friend who’s been there, done that, and understands exactly where you’re coming from.

DSL’s columnists were up for that challenge. For the past 11 years, Dance Studio Life has brought you hard-won wisdom. written by expert educators in everything from tap to preschoolers to life coaching. Here, we review more than a decade of DSL columns and raise a glass to their wise authors.

“I always remember what I was told as a young teacher. Be persistent, persevere, be patient, and always remember tender, loving kindness.” —Mignon Furman

Ballet beginnings

It all started in 2007 with one columnist: veteran ballet teacher Mignon Furman. Classically trained, Furman ran one of South Africa’s largest ballet schools, created her own syllabus, and taught all over the world—yet she taught accessibly and could break down her teaching ideas for the youngest students. The concept of the new column, Tips for Ballet Teachers, was simple—two briefly stated, immediately usable ideas—and instantly clicked with readers.

Furman passed away in 2012, age 86. Former San Francisco Ballet principal David Arce took over the column, and became DSL’s longest-serving columnist. A teacher at Juline School of Dance in Modesto, California, Arce wrote columns brimming with imagery ideas, troubleshooting strategies, and classroom insights (for example, why young dancers react faster to positive corrections).

From 2014 to 2017, San Francisco Ballet accompanist Nina Pinzarrone shared her extensive musical knowledge in Music Tips for Dance Teachers. This series offered readers a crash course in music terms, concepts, and history.

“The souls who brave the art of teaching dance must be patience personified.” —Carol Crawford Smith

A personal touch

DSL’s longest-running non-Tips columnist was Suzanne Martin, whose A Better You ran from 2008 to 2013. A physical therapist practicing in Northern California, Martin discussed health-related topics, from bone density deficiencies to proven treatments for swollen feet to battling burnout. All of her columns ended on the upbeat “I have faith in you.”

In 2010, DSL rolled out Teacher to Teacher, written by former Dance Theatre of Harlem dancer Carol Crawford Smith. “Teaching is humbling and enlightening,” Crawford Smith, then a Blacksburg, Virginia, studio owner, wrote of the struggles and joys of teaching budding dancers. In 2011, Crawford Smith’s writing alternated monthly with contributions from Onalaska, Wisconsin, studio owner, DSL feature writer, and popular DanceLife Teacher Conference speaker Misty Lown. Teacher to Teacher was discontinued after the December 2011 issue.

 “Talk with your students about your own mentors and the legends who influenced you. Pass this message on: your students are not isolated in history.” —Toni Pierce-Sands

Modern and more

In 2012, DSL expanded Tips beyond ballet, adding columnists for modern, hip-hop, and tap. Bill Evans, who directs the Evans Teacher Certification Program and teaches at Dean College, wrote Tips for Modern Teachers from 2012 to 2014. His thoughtful columns touched on movement efficiency, healthy alignment, and encouraging students’ individuality.

In 2015, the column was renamed Tips for Modern & Contemporary Teachers, and Toni Pierce-Sands, a former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater soloist and head of the School at TU Dance Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, took over. Her columns displayed her care in nurturing her students’ performing fire and passing on the legacies of Horton, Graham, and other classic techniques. She was followed in 2016 by Patrick Corbin, assistant professor at USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance and a former Paul Taylor Dance Company dancer. Corbin’s columns encouraged full, grounded movement and often gave his take on elements of the athletic Taylor technique, such as floor work and partnering. His USC colleague Jennifer McQuiston Lott, a former Armitage Gone! dancer, contributed the July 2017 column, arguing for good classroom etiquette even in contemporary’s relaxed atmosphere.

Amber Perkins, director of Perkins School of the Arts in Norwich, New York, took the reins in 2017. Perkins wrote about hot topics like improv and student choreography, and she lit up the DSL Facebook page with her column “Can Your Students Tell Modern From Contemporary?”

 “Hip-hop has represented many otherwise unheard people. When words just aren’t enough, movement can take over and express our emotions, making us feel seen and heard.” —Samara Atkins

Bringing the groove

Charismatic convention teacher Geo Hubela created DSL’s Tips for Hip-Hop Teachers in 2012. The director of Icon Dance Complex in Englishtown, New Jersey, Hubela defined swag and the Nae Nae, recommended recital battles, and cautioned us to mind students’ neck safety in head spins. In 2015, Rock Steady Crew member Anthony “Ynot” DeNaro succeeded Hubela, musing on hip-hop’s explosive quality, classic steps like the Patty Duke, and the importance of cross-training.

Oakland, California, teacher and co-founder of the all-female company Mix’d Ingrdnts, Samara Atkins took on the column in 2016. Her belief in hip-hop as a path to confidence, empowerment, and community shone through; she wrote about introducing freestyling and cyphers, encouraging students to “sit in the pocket,” and her love for ’90s moves.

“Listening is an important skill for both tap teachers and students. Of all dance forms, tap is unique in that its sound is its essence. It’s easy to get distracted by how it looks.” —Thelma Goldberg

Happy sounds

Tips for Tap Teachers kicked off in 2012. Stacy Eastman, director of Gloria Jean’s Studio of Dance in Connecticut, wrote a series of columns on the basics of teaching beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. Succeeding her in 2013 was Emmy-nominated choreographer Gregg Russell, who delved into troubleshooting missed sounds, using “satin and sandpaper” imagery to teach flaps, and the importance of strong shins.

In 2014, Thelma Goldberg, creator of Thelma’s Tap Notes and director of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts, took over. Goldberg’s columns drew on her vast knowledge of steps and history and her unquenchable passion for teaching. Her many ideas included teaching pre-tap in ballet shoes and a mantra to support clean technique: “released, relaxed, and ready.”

“Remind your students always to be true, in their port de bras, to themselves, the art form, the music, and the audience. Then the genuine gift of generosity will shine through in their dancing.” —David Arce

A new crop

In 2017, DSL introduced several new columns and made Tips for Teachers bimonthly. DLTC preschool sessions were always packed, so we enlisted Susan Bennett, creator of the curriculum Magnificent Moving Kidz, to write Tips for Preschool Teachers. Bennett’s final column, “Become a Classroom Zen Master,” playfully invited readers to attain Zen-like mastery with preschoolers. “Remember,” she advised, “you are the wise master, who mindfully does what’s good for students.”

Tricia Gomez, creator of Rhythm Works Integrative Dance and Hip Hop in a Box, penned Tips for Special-Needs Teachers. One in six U.S. children has a developmental disability, yet most dance teachers get no preparation for special-needs students. Gomez broke down the challenges these students can face in a typical dance class—cognitive, motor, self-help, social/emotional, and communication—and explained ways for teachers to deal with them gracefully while making a real difference in students’ lives.

Teri Mangiaratti, owner extraordinaire of In Sync Center of the Arts in Quincy, Massachusetts, brought her organizational brilliance and love of spreadsheets to Taking Care of Business. Office a black hole of messy paperwork? Vacations a distant dream? Mangiaratti was the get-organized-then-throw-yourself-a-party mentor you needed to kick yourself into gear.

Michelle Cote, CPA, a small-business specialist for Dennis & Associates in Quincy, Massachusetts, wrote about financial topics relevant to dance studio owners and dance teachers, such as tracking expenses and finding those elusive tax savings, in Dollars, Cents, and Due Diligence. Bruce Lubatkin, CFP, contributed the final financial column in this August’s issue.

A certified life coach, former studio owner, and long-time educator, Sandi Duncan dispensed empathy and self-care advice in Teacher Tune-Up. She took on tough topics—insecurity, burnout, aging, creative block, overwork, and that special grief when beloved students move on—and never forgot to remind readers why they (and she) chose to teach dance in the first place.

“Take time to appreciate yourself and all of the value you bring to this world. Day by day, you will begin to see the good in yourself that others see in you.” —Sandi Duncan

Shared knowledge

For the past 11 years, the editorial staff has been proud to shape, edit, and publish these columns in the pages of Dance Studio Life. Our columnists’ passion for teaching has been the heartbeat of this magazine, and we sincerely thank them.


DSL associate editor Tamsin Nutter lives in Berkeley, California. A lifelong dancer and current dance mom, she has treasured her four years editing Tips for Teachers and other columns.