Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

by John J. Ratey, MD, with Eric Hagerman

Little, Brown and Company

In a nutshell: A valuable tool for educators looking to establish a dance or fitness program in an academic setting.

To illuminate the crucial link between exercise and brain function, Dr. John Ratey, associate professor at Harvard Medical School, brings together 10 chapters of research and case studies in this well-researched book. He specifically recommends activities (like dance) that challenge the cardiovascular system and improve cognitive function: “Studies of dancers, for example, show that moving to an irregular rhythm versus a regular one improves brain plasticity.” He also notes that the social aspect of partner dancing adds an additional beneficial challenge, as exercise can alleviate anxiety, stress and depression. But what will most hit home with dance educators is Ratey’s documentation of the incredible academic achievements of students in Naperville, Illinois, and Titusville, Pennsylvania, after innovative and extensive physical education programs were implemented into their school districts.

—Caitlin Sims

 

Zumbatomic: Get the Flow

by Zumba Fitness, LLC

In a nutshell: A complete Latin-rhythms workout for children ages 5 to 11.

The latest addition to the acclaimed Zumba fitness programs, the Zumbatomic DVD Collection, was created to help combat the growing obesity epidemic among children. This three-DVD box set is packed with 90 minutes of calorie-burning traditional Latin and contemporary style fitness and dance exercises, like hip hop, reggaeton, salsa, mambo, Bhangra, belly dancing, samba and merengue. Instructor Gina Grant integrates character-based story lines into each workout to encourage coordination, discipline, confidence and teamwork. This collection also comes with an upbeat soundtrack CD and read-a-long comic book.

—Jenny Thompson

 

HOPSDance With Tyce Diorio and Krista Saab: Volume 1

by Michèle Assaf

Tezoro Productions and HOPSports, Inc.

In a nutshell: A fun, high-energy instructional dance DVD for young students.

In this 60-minute program, Tyce Diorio and Krista Saab introduce beginners to the fundamentals of several dance styles, including 1950s theater dance, hip hop, Latin and jazz. The energetic instructors make following along easy by demonstrating each combination and across-the-floor exercise on HOPSports mats. (While these mats are not necessary to learn the choreography, they will provide structure and help children develop spatial awareness.) The DVD’s well-paced progression enables young dancers to gain confidence before moving on to the performance-level section. To further promote creativity, teachers can ask students to create their own dances with the learned movements. This DVD will have kids up and moving, no matter their experience level.

—JT

For the past 17 years, the Martha Hill Fund has been honoring the commitment to dance education and international performance embodied by its namesake. Previous award winners have included Carla Maxwell, former artistic director of Limón Dance Company, former Ailey II dancer Frederick Earl Mosley and Mark DeGarmo of Mark DeGarmo Dance.

This year's awards gala takes place tonight at the Manhattan Penthouse in New York City. Check out who's being honored.

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Dancer Health

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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Dancer Health
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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Teachers & Role Models
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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