Karen More’s resumé reads like a dancer’s greatest-hits list. From gigs with modern companies like Donald Byrd/The Group and Elisa Monte Dance, to ensemble roles at Radio City Music Hall and in the European tour of West Side Story, the petite, sparkly-eyed dancer has worked in virtually every dance genre.

But now at 33, More must face a new reality: Her injuries require more attention than they once did. Early this year a severe hip problem resurfaced and abruptly halted her plans to perform with the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company for its 40th anniversary season in November. Though tempted to try and dance through the pain, More decided to put her health first.

“I was lying on the floor in my room in horrible pain,” she says, when she realized, “If I stayed in the pieces, I would most likely get too injured and have no choice but to have surgery. At some point you have to take responsibility and choose what makes sense.” Fortunately, with the help of physical therapy, acupuncture, and massage, she hopes to return to performing later in 2008. In the meantime, she has gained a new respect for her body, as well as patience—a quality that was absent earlier in her career.

As a child, More trained intensively with Deborah Agrusa and Luba Kytasta in Rochester, Michigan. When she moved to New York City at 18 to attend Marymount Manhattan College, More was indefatigable, often taking class for an entire day at Steps on Broadway. Although she enjoyed college, she left it behind without a second thought when she was offered a job with Philadanco. “I didn’t think about the future at all,” she says. “I could only see dance in front of me.”

Consistent work followed. Unfortunately, she couldn’t ignore that increasingly her body was not bouncing back from injury the way it once had. So in 2005, she started looking into options with the help of Career Transition For Dancers. Her long-time love of children led her to consider elementary education, and in 2008 she began volunteering at the Taft Day Care Center.

More also applied for a grant to finish her bachelor’s degree through the Liberal Education for Arts Professionals (LEAP) program sponsored by St. Mary’s College of California. The New York branch offers classes located in midtown, convenient for dancers arriving from theaters or rehearsal studios. With LEAP, a performance career can count for up to 30 credits toward a liberal arts degree—it’s seen as the equivalent of a college dancer’s technique training.

“They took all of my transfer credits and are extremely helpful and accommodating. That’s so important at this stage,” she says.

While sidelined, More will focus on yoga and Pilates. But with encouragement from her health team, she is eager to return to dance as soon as possible—her future career plan tucked into her pocket. “It’s so important to have a serious focus in dance. But you learn that finding balance and exploring other passions as they pop up is important too—and as early as possible. The transition is easier if you have looked into whatever has sparked your interest outside of dance along the way.”

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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