D’Angelo Castro and Amanda Carbajales, the adorable youngsters who won the $500,000 top prize on Paula Abdul’s “Live to Dance” with their ballroom dancing, are from Lory and Manuel Castro’s Dance Town studio in Miami. Little D’Angelo first captured our hearts from the New York City Dance Alliance nationals stage in 2009, when he was only 8 years old. Last summer at the Dance Teacher Summit, his mom’s Latin group number was an electrifying crowd pleaser in the Capezio A.C.E. Award finals. No question about it, ballroom dance is hot.

 

Ever since ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” hit the small screen, ballroom has been grabbing an ever larger slice of media attention. And Tony Dovolani has been part of the show almost since the beginning, signing on as a pro for Season 2. In person, he is the ultimate nice-guy-next-door type who makes you feel everything you say is smart and funny. Except that you’d have to have lived in Kosovo to be his neighbor. (He came to the U.S. when his family was forced to leave because of political upheaval.) Writer Jen Jones tells his inspirational story in “Dancing with Dovolani”.

 

Long before “DWTS,” Pierre Dulaine was using ballroom to help public school children learn social skills. The 2005 award-winning documentary Mad Hot Ballroom brought his program into the public eye, and Antonio Banderas starred in the Hollywood version, Take the Lead. In Technique this month, we asked Dulaine’s dance partner and Dancing Classrooms artistic director, Yvonne Marceau, to demonstrate how she teaches a basic waltz—a foundational step that all dancers need to know, especially ballet students.

 

Save the date: July 29–31. Perhaps you’ve considered how you might join the growing ballroom trend. Whether by expanding curriculum or renting out studio space for classes or rehearsals, some studio owners are finding ballroom is a great way to get new people through their doors. Sharing this and other studio business strategies is part of why more than 1,000 dance educators come to NYC every summer for the Dance Teacher Summit—three days of technique classes, teaching advice, networking and business empowerment. Plus we have a lot of fun! Don’t miss it: www.danceteachersummit.com.

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With Thanksgiving approaching, we're all ruminating on the things we are most thankful for in the world. Of course, as dance teachers, our students are always at the top of our list. They make us laugh, they make us cry and sometimes they make us want to pull our hair out, but at the end of the day, they are the reason for everything we do in the studio each day. To get you thinking about how much you love your dancers, here are five videos of kids dancing that are sure to make your heart happy! We want to see the dancers you're thankful for this season, too, so share your favorite videos on social media, tag us and include #gratitudedance in the caption. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

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Dancer Health
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No matter how hard I work to change it, I'm often told that I have a shallow plié. Is there any hope for improving the depth of my plié through special stretches to make it juicier? I'm doing a lot of exercises, but I don't seem to getting any results. Looking forward to reading your advice. Thanks!

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Videos

When New York City–based dancer Dan Lai began choreographing Figure 8, he had a specific vision in mind. Inspired by a song by FKA Twigs, he wanted the movement to represent the music's "dark and twisted vibe." "My thought process was to make shapes and phrases that were abstract and unique that complimented the intricate beats of the music," he says.

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Dance Buzz
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Science has proven again, again that dancing is just, well, good for you. And not even in moderation. Like drinking water or laughing, there's no such thing as too much dancing. So, let's rejoice for this new dance perk to add to the list.

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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, her teacher Kirsten Cooper taught her that focused transitions would be pivotal to her success as a dancer. Now as a professional, Erdmann applies this advice to her daily performances, asserting that she will never let the details of her dancing get blurry.

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How-To
Photo by Nancy Adler, courtesy of Maria Hanley

When a principal, teacher, or parent walks into a room and sees 20 children rolling around on the floor and then leaping for the sky (learning about level changes), or jumping about like frogs (in a role-playing improvisation activity), they might not always understand what's going on. That's why Deborah Damast, clinical assistant professor and artistic advisor of the dance education program at NYU Steinhardt, offered up several responses as to why this type of movement—often a precursor to formal ballet/tap/jazz classes—is so very important.

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