What a treat it was to attend a working rehearsal with Jill Johnson of Ballet Frankfurt fame, and Sy, a Cambodian-born, School of American Ballet–trained dancer. We joined them at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center for the final afternoon of rehearsal for a solo which Johnson had created for Sy (pronounced See) to perform at the Vail International Dance Festival in August. He told us this was his first exposure to Johnson’s Forsythe-influenced style—angular and off-centered, yet fluid and very pleasing to watch.

 

Johnson allowed our photographer Rachel Papo to click away while the two warmed up, and we left with fabulous shots for the cover and Michael Crabb’s feature story about Johnson’s newest role as head of dance at Harvard University. Her career move has sparked a few conversations: What exactly does it mean for a star like Johnson to join the faculty of a school where dance is largely a secondary pursuit? Her response may raise some eyebrows. We’ll certainly be watching her activity at Harvard with interest.

 

Speaking of second choices, many contemporary dancers arrive at college without much background in classical ballet. If you’re a ballet teacher, how can you engage their interest? Former professional ballet dancer Lorin Johnson, currently on the faculty of California State University–Long Beach, is a great example of a teacher struggling to relate to students who have training and goals that differ from his own. His thought-provoking article opens the annual Dance Teacher Higher Ed Guide.

 

September is a great time for fresh starts. This issue is filled with both inspiration and advice for the fall studio session ahead: a fun list adapted from the book Simply the Best: 29 Things Students Say the Best Teachers Do Around Relationships; Mindy Aloff’s new book on the writings of Agnes de Mille; the story of tap legend John Bubbles; making the best use of guest artists; and preparing your boys for safe partnering. Ana Marie Forsythe of The Ailey School demonstrates a core movement of Horton technique—the lateral T—and Broadway dancer Dana Foglia shares her top selections for dance class music.

 

Did you know Foglia is one of the dancers we follow this season on Dance212? New episodes start on September 19. The series is a great way to show your students what it takes to dance in New York City. www.dance212.com

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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How-To

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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