Is there anything more adorable than little kids dancing? I love that Raegan Wood uses imagery to get her young students to stand with good dance posture. "Show us your bright shining star," she tells them. During our visit to her class, we heard it many times: "Remember, bright stars."

 

Wood, the former company member who has designed the curriculum for Paul Taylor's first children’s program, is at her gifted best when working with her youngest group, ages 4–6. And when we saw 7- and 9-year-olds doing iconic Taylor moves, well, it just made us smile. In Technique, Wood demonstrates the way she gets youngsters to fly like birds with the Aureole run. (See the video here.)

 

We had a similar response when we heard about dance studios that have raised substantial funds for cancer research and other medical causes. In "Feel-Good Fundraising," Jen Jones Donatelli goes behind the scenes of three annual events that were conceptualized and produced by dance teachers. Each was started for very different reasons, but a side benefit the three share is that the events have raised their studios' profiles in the community. What a formula: Worthy cause + opportunity for students to perform = great marketing tool.

 

We're not as purely enthusiastic about cosmetic surgery—the topic addressed in Health ("I Feel Pretty"). Going under the knife can fuel a dancer's quest for perfection in a negative way ("Nip/Tuck" anyone?). But given that there are instances when a procedure may benefit your career or your health, writer Nancy Wozny shares what you need to know—and what to watch out for.

For the past 17 years, the Martha Hill Fund has been honoring the commitment to dance education and international performance embodied by its namesake. Previous award winners have included Carla Maxwell, former artistic director of Limón Dance Company, former Ailey II dancer Frederick Earl Mosley and Mark DeGarmo of Mark DeGarmo Dance.

This year's awards gala takes place tonight at the Manhattan Penthouse in New York City. Check out who's being honored.

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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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