At this year's Dance Teacher Summit, contemporary choreographer Erica Sobol walked away with first prize at the Capezio A.C.E. Award Competition, winning $15,000 to produce a show in New York. Sobol, who has her own Los Angeles-based company, collidEdance, took a moment to talk with DT.

Sobol's all-male cast performing
Black Flies/Heavy Skies at the DT Summit

How does it feel to win the A.C.E. Awards?

Winning first place is a dream come true for me. I told my dancers, before they went onstage, to leave nothing in their pockets; to be unafraid; to be generous; to take care of each other and tell their story. When they performed, I was totally relaxed. Winning was a bonus.

What went into the creation of this piece?

A lot of love, heartbreak, long hours and sweat! This dance actually began as a class combination. Six months ago, I set the finished piece on a beautiful group of dancers in Australia. It began as a mixed-gender piece, but it was lacking oomph. I've been working with mostly men lately, and I'm really enjoying it. In my experience so far, men are full of wild, silly energy but low on drama and eager to be physically challenged. Their unbridled, uninhibited energy really helps tell my stories at full volume.

The awards ceremony

Did you have any challenges?

When I first created the work in Australia, I had three days to make the entire thing. I hit a wall around 2 am on the last day before my dancers would perform it. We took a short break and then resumed, wrapping up around 4 am. In those two hours, I created some of my favorite moments.

What was going through your head as you waited for the winner announcement?

My head was spinning. I was just so proud of my guys and myself. When they called my name, I had to be reminded to look out at the audience and take a bow. The first thing I saw when I looked out was Mia Michaels sitting at the judges' table, smiling at me. I have looked up to Mia for as long as I can remember.

Erica Sobol

Do you have any plans for your full-length show?

I don't know exactly what it will look like, but I know it will be story-driven, emotional, moving and full of real love, great music and very special dancers. I'm over the moon to be presenting my work in New York.

Photos from top: by Kyle Froman; by Max Bronner

Neuromuscular expert Deborah Vogel with Jordan Lazan, right. Photo by Jim Lafferty

By strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot and ankle, a dancer can help prevent or correct existing pronation. Having strong intrinsic foot muscles keeps the arches aligned, preventing them from dropping inward.

Here, Vogel shares three strengthening exercises to help correct and prevent pronation. She advises dancers to include these in their cross-training regimen.

Mobilize your ankles. (Step 1)

For this ankle mobilization exercise, having a TheraBand wrapped around your ankles puts pressure on your feet to pronate. By resisting that action and keeping your feet centered through the relevé, you're essentially training the ankle where center is.

  • Sitting up straight in a chair, with your feet planted on the floor a few inches apart, tie a TheraBand in a loop around your ankles. You can place a yoga block vertically in between your knees to maintain space between your legs.

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