When Tracie Stanfield teaches contemporary class at Broadway Dance Center, she often includes choreographed stretch combinations. Dancers might move from a contraction into a lateral bend and then to a cambré back, before repeating it all on the other side. "I try to maximize their range of motion," says Stanfield. "It's my responsibility to get them ready to dance and not just focus on hitting a picture."
Most dancers want to improve their flexibility, especially if they have tight muscles and joints that inhibit their extension. But they might be preoccupied with the height of their legs and disregard the quality of their extension. Some might even force themselves into unsafe stretches or positions, trying to imitate what they see on social media. You can give students safe exercises and ideas—the right balance of strength and flexibility—to help increase mobility while deemphasizing the need for whacked hips and backs.
At some point in their training, most dancers will likely audition for a summer intensive, school production, commercial gig or professional company. How they present themselves from beginning to end can play a huge role in determining their level of success. Here's a list of what your dancer's should avoid doing.
When Elizabeth Ferrell was a young student, Suzanne Farrell told her something she'll never forget. "She said she was going to paint eyeballs on my eyelids," Ferrell says, laughing, "because I was looking down all the time." Ferrell now uses the same phrase when she teaches at American Ballet Theatre Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. "Students have to make sure their eyes are open and alive, so they can communicate with the audience," she says. "It starts in the classroom."