What studio owner wants to spend time thinking about the worst that can happen? Yet as the dance studio business continues to expand, the number of dance studio–related scandals seems to grow in proportion: Sexual abuse allegations make headlines, copycat studios pop up around the corner and "borrowed" choreography winds up onstage at the next competition. Thinking through a crisis management plan ahead of time and adopting wise risk-reduction strategies will help protect the hard-earned success you've achieved. Read on for three studio scenarios and the steps to appropriately deal with them and prevent them from happening at all.

When Another Studio Steals Your Choreography

If you discover that your choreography has been stolen by another studio or choreographer and passed off as original material, issue a polite letter or e-mail to the studio, asking that the choreographer stop using and performing your material, or else give you credit and payment for it. Explain that you are happy to work out a licensing arrangement, for a fee, for any future use of your work. Note that if a piece of choreography is created by an employee of your studio, that dance piece belongs to the studio, unless an explicit provision has been made in a faculty member's employment contract. If the choreography is created by a guest artist, however, that material belongs to him or her—unless otherwise stipulated in a contract.

Risk-Reducing Practices

Julie Van Camp, lawyer and retired ethics professor at California State University, Long Beach, recommends the following plan of action to reduce intellectual property theft:

• Make a video of the piece in its entirety and post it on YouTube, with a copyright notice, posting date and performance date.

• Register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office (about $35—see copyright.gov), using the video.

The next step in an intellectual property case would be to pursue an infringement claim, but Van Camp warns that this is expensive and difficult, since it requires hiring an attorney who specializes in intellectual property, and the originality of the work would have to be sorted out in litigation—a tricky situation in itself, since dance plagiarism is difficult to prove and lacks a clear, legal definition. Furthermore, it's hard to nail down damages—how much money, exactly, was lost as a result of the choreography theft? Can you accurately and convincingly quantify that amount in tuition or number of students?

Slippery scenarios such as these can be tricky to navigate, but that doesn't mean they can't be dealt with professionally and confidently. A well-prepared studio owner won't need to waste time putting together a crisis plan when actual disaster strikes—she'll already be busy putting it into action.

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Photos by Amy Kelkenberg

Whether a dancer has too much or too little, turnout can be one of the most frustrating aspects of technique. Students often feel they must achieve 180-degree rotation to become successful in the field. In reality, the average person only has 45 degrees of external rotation in each leg, meaning their first position should be no greater than 90 degrees.

Because range of motion in the hip is ultimately determined by the joint's structure, it is impossible for dancers to increase their structural turnout. Often, though, students do not use what they have to the greatest potential. By maximizing their mobility they will find greater ease within movement, improve lines and, most important, prevent injuries caused by forcing the joints.

Deborah Vogel, co-founder of the Center for Dance Medicine in New York City, says the best way to unlock external rotation is to balance out muscle strength and flexibility. “Dancers are working the turnout all the time. They're always engaged and focused so much on using it. The minute they learn how to release those muscles they bring everything into balance," she says. “That middle is where dancers last the longest."

Here, Vogel suggests exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles that activate turnout:

Sitting Stretch: For Stretching Turnout Muscles at the Back of the Pelvis

Sit on the edge of a chair with knees at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor. Cross the right ankle onto the left knee. Lace your hands together and nestle them under the right knee, lightly pressing energy into your hands and toward the floor (though the knee should not actually move). Sit up straight—some may already feel tension here.

With a flat back, bring the belly button toward your legs. Continue gently pressing the right knee into your clasped hands.

Experiment with turning the upper body toward the knee or the foot to stretch different muscles.

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Ashley Wheater, Joffrey Ballet

"I want to develop and nurture artists," says Wheater, seeking "people who are not afraid to be expressive, and understand all the layers that go into making a work above and beyond the steps."

Ingrid Lorentzen, Norwegian National Ballet

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Dancers have a language all their own. From French technical terms to scatting out choreography dynamics, it's a wonder any nondancers understand a word we say! Perhaps some of the most confusing dancer terms are the various foods we use to describe our feet. To help dance outsiders out, DT broke down the foods that are commonplace in dancer lingo. Share them with your loved ones, so they can better understand the weird and wonderful breed of dancer that you are.

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We all know and love Mia Michaels. She's a fearless choreographer and teacher, who's inspired a generation of dancers with her unique style, grace and brilliance. What's not to love? And now we can't help but gush over a personal confession she recently shared on Instagram.

Bottom line: No matter your age, size or shape, don't wait to love your body or yourself.

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I recently started back in modern dance after a long hiatus—I stopped dancing at age 11 and went back two years ago at age 24. I've found that when I'm on the floor, I can't open to a very wide second. Also, if I'm sitting in butterfly on the floor with my feet together, my knees are some distance from the ground. What can I do to loosen my hips?

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When your students are onstage, every dance step matters, of course. But so does every non-dance step. The simple act of being onstage—whether standing still, walking to a position or running from one place to another—requires a constant presence. And as Kitty Carter, of Kitty Carter's Dance Factory in Dallas, Texas, points out, "walking and running are actually part of the dance. They act as transitions from step to step." So teaching your students to understand the importance of active stillness and pedestrian choreography is essential, and it will help them see the "big picture" of a performance. But it's not easy.

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