"Would you join us?” said Jacques d’Amboise to a fifth-grader during a rare break in the action of a recent National Dance Institute class. “Because I love your dancing very much.” Later, he singled out another child to demonstrate a particularly tricky routine. “You make a mistake and I’ll take your shoes,” he kidded in his gruff New York street accent. To help another child understand just how large a step was required for a particular movement, the 76-year-old founder of NDI laid down on the floor and challenged the boy to step high enough to clear his torso.

 

These particular fifth-graders may or may not be aware of d’Amboise’s fame or the starring roles he danced in the Balanchine era. But by addressing the children individually and demanding excellence from the class, d’Amboise sets a standard for commitment in everything these kids do in their lives. Multiply this interaction by the 40,000 children NDI reaches each year, and you begin to understand the organization’s impact. (For more about NDI, click here, where Artistic Director Ellen Weinstein demonstrates a sample movement from the NDI curriculum.)

 

The Dance Teacher photo shoot was not unlike the high-energy NDI class we had just observed. D’Amboise sent the school maintenance crew to find him a ladder. He wanted to raise photographer Matt Murphy to a vantage point where he could capture the entire group of eight NDI faculty members, a full class of fifth-graders and d’Amboise himself in a single frame.

 

D’Amboise directed the group through one compositional idea after another, and in each one, the people were intertwined. “When there is space between you, the viewer looks from one to the other,” he had told the kids when they were instructed to form a line during class. “When you touch, you’re connected.”

 

This is the legacy d’Amboise has passed down to new generations for 35 years. And it’s the reason Dance Teacher is honoring him with this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

Join us at the Dance Teacher Summit later this month to meet d’Amboise in person, along with the four inspiring educators who will receive 2011 Dance Teacher AwardsTony Williams, Jamee Shleifer, Patricia Dickinsonand Diane Frank. The DT Awards will be the highlight of the Capezio ACE Awards choreography competition, making Saturday, July 30, a fun night for all. And d’Amboise will speak at the final session of the Dance Teacher Summit, Sunday, July 31, at the Hilton New York. There’s still time to register: www.danceteachersummit.com.

 

In addition to the full complement of advice, how-to and news for dance educators working in all sectors and types of dance, this issue contains the 2011 Dance Teacher Dance Directory, your go-to source for products and services to help you run your business and support your career. Keep it nearby as a year-round reference.

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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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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