September is an exciting month: Time to kick off a new year at the studio! Here’s advice from Robin Dawn, owner of Robin Dawn Dance Academy in Cape Coral, Florida, on how to get your season started on the right foot. 


1 Spruce up your space. Paint the walls, hang new pictures, make repairs, clean the bathrooms—do whatever you can to make your studio feel welcoming for new visitors and clean and rejuvenated for those who are returning.


2 Hold a grand-opening event a few weeks before classes start. We call ours “Back to Dance.” We create a special registration day with refreshments and balloons, where people can come see the studio and meet the teachers. My company dancers demonstrate and perform, and we offer free 30-minute mini-classes so dancers can try out the different teachers and styles. We also have a raffle and giveaway one free month of classes. Events like these get people into the studio, and whether they sign up or not, you can get their information for follow-ups.


3 Advertise—it’s the best thing you can do. At the start of every year we put a big ad in the local newspapers right next to the school bus schedules. All the parents check that section to see what time their kids are getting picked up for school—and next to it they’ll see our studio.


4 Have a meet-and-greet event for your competition team. Once our entire team is selected, we plan to spend a day together at a local park. It’s a potluck for the dancers and their families. We introduce the new team members, play games like sack races and wheelbarrow races and teach everyone the Robin Dawn chant. We don’t do anything that has to do with dance on that day. We just have fun together.


5 Create a big brother/big sister program. At the start of the year, the competition team members get assigned a buddy. The seniors pick a younger dancer from the team to mentor all the way through Nationals—and they get really into it. They watch each other at competitions and help each other out backstage. It’s fun to watch them get attached and grow throughout the year together.



Photo: At Robin Dawn Dance, senior company members mentor younger dancers. (courtesy of Robin Dawn Dance Academy)

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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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.

Next Page
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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