Step kick, step kick, turn, reach up, drop to your—oooouccchhhh!—knee. Put it on record: I strained my hamstring by kneeling on the ground, practicing the routine for a class of 6-year-olds. Really, it’s just comical…except that it hurts. A lot.


I know what you’re thinking: “Jenny, didn’t you learn your lesson last year, when your class was learning grand jeté and you thought it was a great idea to show your students what the actual step looks like—despite your hip labral tear and not being all that warm?” You’re right. Leaping full-out to impress my class was not a good idea. In fact, it was just silly.


This, I thought, was different. I warm up with my kids—I do the stretching, pliés, relevés and all that jazz. I mean, we’re not practicing fouettes in this class; I don’t lift my legs past 45-degrees and I don’t jump.


But I’ve certainly learned my lesson. A week of not walking up or down stairs comfortably has truly showed me the importance of warming up on my own before class. Any class, at any level. The studio is cold and I’m getting older—I’m not indestructible.


So I offer this advice: WARM UP! I hurt myself simply by bending down to one knee; I am sure there are easy actions lurking around the corner that can put you out of commission for some time, too. Even when you don’t think it’s necessary, it is.


If you’re looking for a new pre-class routine, check out this article by Debra Vogel. It’s geared for students, but the exercises are perfect for us, too.


Also, here’s a checklist of ten easy ways to make sure you stay at your optimal level, always.




Photo from Principles of Anatomy and Physiology. Take time stretching your hamstrings—the muscle group affects so much more than just the back of your leg. We're talking your hip, knee, back, pelvis, feet—everything. Don't be fooled by your students' (or your) high extensions—most likely their hamstrings are still tight, especially if they're hyperextended. Stretch 'em out!


The Feldenkrais Method is a somatic technique created by Moshe Feldenkrais in the 1950s. The method has two parts: hands-on sessions with a Feldenkrais teacher (Functional Integration) or group classes comprised of verbal cues (Awareness Through Movement).

Mary Armentrout, a dance teacher, choreographer and Feldenkrais practitioner, shares three ways that this somatic practice can bolster your students' training.

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Your Studio

Oversexualizing young kids has been a hot topic among dance teachers in recent years. It's arguably the most controversial topic teachers and studio owners are faced with. Deciding which choreography, music or costumes are appropriate—or not—isn't always black and white and can be easily overlooked. Is showing the midriff too much for minis? Is this choreography too provocative? Is this popular song too suggestive for a competition piece? The questions can seem endless with no clear objective answers. Until now.

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To make dancers stronger and less injury-prone, Burns Wilson suggest adding floor barre or conditioning classes. Photo courtesy of Burns Wilson

With a career spanning 30-plus years in the dance field, Anneliese Burns Wilson has cultivated a unique perspective on health and injury prevention for dancers. From teaching ballet to teaching anatomy, she then founded ABC for Dance, which publishes dance-teaching materials. Now through research for her next book, which will focus on training the female adolescent dancer, she's delving even deeper into topics many dance teachers have overlooked.

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Erdmann (left) on set for "Hairspray Live" (courtesy of Erdmann)

When Wicked ensemble member Kelli Erdman was training at Westlake Dance Center in Seattle, Washington, her teacher Kirsten Cooper taught her that focussed transitions would be pivotal to her success as a dancer. Now as a professional, she applies this advice to her daily performances, asserting that she will never let the details of her dancing get blurry.

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Khobdeh dancing Taylor's Speaking In Tongues. Photo courtesy of PTDC

For Parisa Khobdeh, music does more than set the tone for a piece—it's enabled her to connect with movement. And once she joined Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2003, Taylor's body of work deepened this connection. "His choreography showed me the music, the architecture and the space," she says. "I now see the music."

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Dance Buzz

We haven't been able to stop watching Lil' Mushroom since she popped and locked her way into Ellen's heart last week. We know you've got a long night of teaching ahead, and this is the dance inspiration you need to get you through. Check it out and tell us what you think about her killer moves over on our Facebook page! (She starts blowing minds at about 2:16.)

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Because the chassé is often neglected during the execution of this traveling step, Judy Rice asks her students to do a minimum of a six-inch chassé before transitioning into the pas de bourrée. She encourages dancers to pay close attention to their shoulders and hips in effacé, too. "Kids tend to open it up. They look like they're fencing," she says. "You don't want that." Both shoulders and hip bones should be facing the corner.

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