In this issue we focus on educators who give young children their very first dance experiences. During these formative years, says Jody Gottfried Arnhold, dance can really take root.

 

When she accepted the National Dance Education Organization’s Visionary Award last summer, Arnhold announced that her vision was “sequential dance education for every child.” The dance educators applauded enthusiastically and I wondered if I was the only one to have the thought, every child? When children arrive at school hungry and leave without learning how to read, dance can seem more like a luxury than a basic educational right. But in the cover story, Arnhold challenges us to think big and imagine the far-reaching impact of raising generations of dance-literate children.

 

Here, Suzi Tortora offers music suggestions (and some surprises) for creative dance class. When Kandee Allen, takes her littlest dancers to competition, she treats the experience like an additional recital so they don’t burn out before high school. And for those of you who have your own children in class, click here for advice on how to separate your dual roles as teacher and mom.

 

Editor Jenny Dalzell and I had a great conversation with Germaine Salsberg at Broadway Dance Center as we shot this month’s Technique column, “How I Teach a Paddle and Roll” . Salsberg noted that beginning tappers often have trouble letting go and allowing their ankles to move freely. Watch her video in which she demonstrates how to get crisp sounds from a loose ankle.
It was the late Gregory Hines who initiated the hunkered down style that Jason Samuels Smith, Savion Glover, Derick K. Grant and others have taken to new heights. In honor of National Tap Dance Day (May 25), writer Katie Rolnick highlights the pivotal role Hines played and shows why he is so revered by hoofers.

 

The Higher Ed and K–12 stories this month address topics of interest for educators in all settings. For instance, how often do you wish your students would queue up something other than Top 40 hits in their iPods? In “Breaking the Sound Barrier” , dance accompanists share ways they help students broaden their musical tastes. And “Watch and Learn”  is all about how to successfully use video. (Perhaps we’ll soon see your entry in the Dance Teacher Video of the Month contest.)

 

Karen Hildebrand
 

Editor in Chief

How-To

Introducing and teaching rhythm can seem easy, but in reality it can prove to be a complicated concept—especially for younger dancers to grasp. At Ballet Hispánico's School of Dance in New York City, Los Explorers for 3- to 5-year-olds uses classic salsa and tango music to help kids acquire rhythmic awareness.

Here Rebecca Tsivkin, early childhood programs associate, and Kiri Avelar, associate school director, offer exercises to help youngsters feel the beat.

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Dance Buzz
Panelists (left to right): Emily Nusbaum, Eric Kupers, Judith Smith, Deborah Karp and Suzanna Curtis. Photo by Aiano Nakagawa, courtesy of Luna Dance Institute

This past Saturday, I visited Luna Dance Institute in Berkeley, California, to attend the Dance & Disability Discourse & Panel—a discussion with five artists, educators and researchers about access and equity for disabled students in dance education. Here are three statements from the discussion that I found eye-opening.

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How-To
Todd Rosenlieb, left, of The Governor's School for the Arts. Photo by Victor Frailing, courtesy of Todd Rosenlieb

You're setting choreography on your class and most of the students are picking it up. One dancer, though, is having difficulty remembering the steps. You review the material several times, but you fear that this is starting to hold back your more advanced students. Still, you're worried the struggling dancer will be left behind. What is the best way to proceed?

Memorizing choreography is an essential skill for dancers. Fast learners have more time to work on the technique and artistry within a combination, and they are often the first to catch the eyes of directors. Like most skills, learning pace can be improved. Encouraging students to develop their own memorization methods will help them approach choreography with confidence.

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Dancer Health
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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How-To
Photo courtesy of New York Live Arts

Ellen Robbins' modern dance classes for kids and teens are legendary in New York City. Robbins, who has been teaching kids how to dance since the 1970s (and whose pupils included the actresses Claire Danes and Julia Stiles), takes the standard recital model and turns it on its head. Her students—ranging in age from 8 to 18—are the choreographers for the annual concert she produces at esteemed NYC venue New York Live Arts.

If that approach sounds borderline insane to you (we know you're all deep in the throes of recital season right now), consider Robbins' unique teaching philosophy: Improvisation is present in every aspect of class, for every age group. Here are four ways she shapes her youngest dancers into choreographers—almost without their realizing it!

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Teachers & Role Models
Former students of Kelley gather around a cardboard cutout made in his honor at the recent tribute. Photo courtesy of Merritt

Every dancer has a teacher who makes an impression. The kind of impression that makes you want to become a dancer or a teacher in the first place. For Mara Merritt, owner of Merritt Dance Center in Schenectady, NY, and countless others, that teacher was Charles Kelley.

Known as "Chuck" to most, Kelley was born December 4, 1936. He was a master teacher in tap, jazz and acrobatics, who wrote syllabuses for national dance conventions like Dance Masters of America. Growing up in upstate New York, Merritt's parents, both dance teachers, took her into Manhattan every Friday to study with Kelley. First at the old Ed Sullivan Theater and the New York Center of Dance in Times Square, then years later at Broadway Dance Center.

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