How-To

High Five with Jennifer Owens and Julie Jarnot of Artistic Fusion Dance Academy

Ice Cream took top honors at New York City Dance Alliance in July.What was most important to you when you first opened Artistic Fusion?

When Jennifer Owens and Julie Jarnot opened Artistic Fusion Dance Academy in Westminster, Colorado, 10 years ago, they did it on a wing and a prayer. “We had high expectations and a credit card with a $10,000 limit,” Owens says. But by recruiting top-notch instructors and jumping right into the competition and convention circuit, their five-person roster quickly began to grow. Now Artistic Fusion’s enrollment is roughly 325 students, including a 92-member competition team. This summer, the academy’s senior dancers won the coveted Critic’s Choice Award at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals.

 

 

What was most important to you when you first opened Artistic Fusion?

 

Jennifer Owens: When we started out, we mostly attended conventions. We wanted the kids and their parents to see the value in education and learning from different teachers.

 

Julie Jarnot: Attending competitions and conventions is a great way for us and the dancers to network and meet new teachers. We share stories and ideas with each other, and the students get to meet people in the industry who can help get them started if they choose to pursue professional dance careers.

 

 

How do you come up with your fresh, creative concepts for routines?

 

JJ: The ideas come to me in random places: driving, watching a movie, in the middle of the night, at an art museum, while reading a fashion magazine. I find that fashion and dance kind of go hand in hand. Last year, I went into Bebe and saw a poster that was very 1940s-pin-up-girl. It inspired me to create the Ice Cream routine we brought to NYCDA Nationals.

 

JO: Also, we steer away from what other people are doing at competition. We try to find things nobody else is doing.

 

What if the dancers don’t like their routine? Does that matter?

 

JJ: We do our best to expose the dancers to as many styles as possible so they have open minds, but sometimes they’re just not feeling it. We have definitely had pieces we performed once and then never did again. We want them to like what they’re doing. If they’re not into it, that’s fine, as long as they’re respectful.

 

How do you avoid drama when you’re putting together formations in group routines?

 

JO: We have always been very sensitive that the dancers move around and everyone has a chance to be up front—no one is a backup dancer.

 

JJ: Sometimes I’ll make a new formation randomly. I’ll tell the dancers to stay on the floor if their birthday is in January; everyone else goes offstage. We make sure everyone knows they are important and that where they are standing in the piece matters. If a certain part of the dance needs something in particular, you use whoever is best at that.

 

What are the biggest challenges when entering a new competition season?

 

JO: It’s tough building a new team. When your seniors graduate, you get a group of new kids. At the beginning of the year, we focus on making sure everyone on the team is comfortable. We establish our focus for the year and talk about what we want to improve upon from the previous year. We make sure everyone is on board and go from there.

 

JJ: We tend to redefine ourselves each year. At the beginning, we sit back a little bit and let the kids settle in and create their team. There’s always somebody who’s a team leader, motivator and peacemaker. We wait to see who’s going to take on that role, because they will help define the company and the season.

 

 

Having a hard time finding original music? Julie Jarnot recommends using the iTunes Genius feature. Simply enter the name of a song or artist that you like, and the Genius will recommend similar tunes.

 

 

Photo by Propix, courtesy of NYCDA

In Motion's senior company dancers and Candice after a showcase performance in Bermuda, (2016). Photo courtesy of Culmer-Smith

When I was 23, an e-mail circulated among my former college dance classmates at Towson University, regarding a teaching position as the jazz director at the In Motion School of Dance studio in Bermuda. I applied, and after a few e-mails, I got offered the job.

Four weeks later, I packed up my tiny little car in Denver, where I was a dancer for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, and drove across the country to my hometown in Maryland, before flying out for my new life in Bermuda.

Looking back now, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn't have time to think through how I should prepare and what I needed to do to officially apply for a work permit. I was mostly concerned with how I was going to pack all my clothes and belongings into two suitcases. If I could go back, I wish I would've had a more specific guide to what teaching in another country entailed.

In an effort to share my experience, here's what I wish I would've known before I left and what I learned over my 10 years living and working as a dance teacher abroad.

Keep reading... Show less
At age 12, doctors advised Paige Fraser to stop dancing and have surgery. Instead, she chose physical therapy and team of chiropractors and massage specialists to help work through her condition. She has just begun her 5th season with Visceral Dance, based in Chicago.

Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine, when viewed from the back, has one or more curves. The vertebrae are abnormally rotated, which creates twisting and more prominent visibility of the rib cage on one side, and it is most commonly seen in adolescents ages 10 and older. Most cases cannot be reversed, but they can be controlled, for example dancer Paige Fraser who despite suffering from severe scoliosis, has thrived as a dancer. Dance teachers can play an essential role in spotting the condition at an early stage.

“Teachers can help to notice that scoliosis is there in the first place," says Sophia Fatouros, a New York City–based dance teacher and and former professional ballet dancer who has struggled with scoliosis since she was 12. “Parents do not always see their children in tight clothes, like leotards."

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Sebastian Grubb (right) runs Sebastian's Functional Fitness in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Grubb

From improved aerobic capacity to better reactivity, cross-training can to do wonders for dancers' health and performance. But with the abundance of exercise programs available, how do you get your dancers on the right routine?

Sebastian Grubb, a San Francisco–based fitness trainer and professional dancer, shares three questions to ask as you consider different cross-training options.

Keep reading... Show less
Videos

When choreographer Cristian Faxola learned he had two days to create, develop and shoot a music video as an audition to choreograph for The Squared Division production house, he and his team embraced the challenge.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Thinkstock

I have heard you say that tight hamstrings prevent full extension of the knees and that you prefer hamstring stretches in a standing position, rather than on the floor. Can you explain why?

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers & Role Models
Photo by Tim Trumble, courtesy of Arizona State University

Many parents discourage their teenagers from majoring in dance because of fear that their child will become a struggling artist in an unforgiving city, only to end their career in injury. But a dance degree can lead to other corners of the profession, such as marketing, physical therapy and arts administration. "Parents always say their children need something to fall back on," says Daniel Lewis, former dean of the dance division at New World School of the Arts. "They only see the stage time, applause and flowers. But there's choreographing, teaching, PR—the careers are endless."

Others are more concerned with disappointment. "Your daughter doesn't have to be a major ballerina with ABT to be successful," says Lewis. "If she wants to be a dancer, she'll find the work. There's a certain amount of training you have to achieve before you even get accepted into a good college, so if you have the talent, and the drive, you can make it."

As mentors, teachers can be monumentally influential on students' college decision processes. Read on to hear from three dance majors who feel grateful they chose this path—and share their words with your students!

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers & Role Models
To show her support for local studios, Kelly Berick requires all her students to be enrolled in an after-school program. Photo by Stephanie Csejtey, courtesy of Akron School of the Arts

When Kelly Berick began teaching high school students at Ohio's Firestone Community Learning Center within Akron Public Schools 21 years ago, she was newly engaged, newly licensed to teach K–12 dance and thrilled to land what she considered the perfect job. Her enthusiasm quickly soured, however, when after two weeks of teaching she called a local studio to introduce herself. "The owner told me her students didn't like me, didn't like what I was doing and were going to quit my program," she says. Her class of seven became a class of three.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored