Eight somatic and fitness training programs that can enrich your teaching and build your business
Teaching Alexander Technique
Broadening your skill set is always a good idea—and a great way to increase your income and offerings to your students. But undertaking a training program is a big decision, requiring a major investment of time and money. And finding the best fit will take some homework. There's the length and location of the training to consider, the tuition and how the modality will fit into your teaching goals and studio environment.
Whether you want to become certified in a popular form like Pilates, add a new dance exercise class to your teaching resumé or pursue a mind-body somatic modality, there is a huge range in cost and time commitment. After a one-day training, for instance, you are ready to teach Zumba, while you should plan a much longer process for Gyrotonic.
If you make the investment in a less well-known form of training, some education of your student population may be necessary. And if there are no certified local trainers, you'll need to factor in the cost of airfare, gas and lodging and the disruption to your regular teaching schedule. With more familiar practices like Pilates, study opportunities are abundant, and it’s worth the research to find the most comprehensive format.
Here is information about eight dancer-friendly modalities to get you started on your exploration.
This sensory-based exercise form is based on dance, healing and martial arts and practiced by people of all sizes and skill levels. Founded by Debbie Rosas and Carlos AyaRosas, Nia is more dance-oriented than traditional fitness classes and is particularly ideal for retired dancers, movement enthusiasts and people who love to dance in a nonjudgmental atmosphere. Training involves several levels and, following the structure of martial arts, there are several belts: white, green, blue, brown and black.
Maxine Silberstein, director of dance at the Jewish Community Center of Houston, found Nia an excellent choice to keep her body in shape without the rigors of traditional dance class. As someone who programs around 40 mind-body classes, she found that by attending the training herself, she was better able to explain the benefits to prospective students. "I loved the music, and it reminded me of when I was a child and just liked to move to music. I did not feel like I was in a fitness class," says Silberstein. "I believe in having an understanding of the different programs I offer. It also helps when hiring an instructor."
Each belt takes at least 50 hours of training in the five core competencies: movement, music, anatomy, science and philosophy.
Cost: $1,599 per belt.
The Alexander Technique
F. M. Alexander was a Shakespearean actor who found that the way he used his voice was causing chronic hoarseness and damaging his career. By observing himself and experimenting, he discovered that becoming aware of our habits allows for better choices in the way we align our bodies and can make a huge difference in our health. The gentle hands-on educational method can be taught in private and group settings, offering students improvements in their posture, balance, efficiency and ease of movement. Subtle directional cues in the practitioner's touch (known as "forward and up") combined with verbal instruction suggest a more easeful way to be in one's body.
Suzanne Oliver, assistant professor of dance at SUNY Brockport, liked the intensive structure of Alexander trainings. Rather than taking a weekly lesson, she could devote three to four hours a day, five days a week. "I wanted to improve my movement ease and efficiency," she says. "As a die-hard type-A perfectionist, I was always overdoing it. I felt constrained." She says the fundamentals of the technique have become the bedrock of her teaching. "We are always making choices as movers; the question is, are they habitual/unconscious choices or intentional/conscious choices? I ask that question in many ways every day."
1,600 hours of training over a minimum of three years at an AmSAT-approved Teacher Training Course. AmSAT Teacher Training Courses maintain a five-to-one student/teacher ratio.
Cost: Fees range between $20,000 to $25,000 for the three years of training.
Yamuna Body Rolling
Started by movement visionary Yamuna Zake, Yamuna Body Rolling involves using various-sized balls to release tension, realign, unwind and elongate the body's soft tissues. Practitioners have the flexibility to work in group settings and one-on-one. Keep in mind, YBR takes some apparatus, so you need to be willing to cart a lot of balls around from class to class.
Former Houston Ballet dancer Joyce Yost Ulrich offers classes at Hope Center and Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy. She finds dancers and nondancers can enjoy the same class. "I find the Yamuna work invaluable and a piece of the body health maintenance puzzle that was missing during my performance career. I have focused my present work on the alternative/balancing side of dance," she says. "It is a skill that they can take with them to prevent injury, increase range of motion and create greater awareness in their bodies."
58 hours divided into two phases. Note: You are not able to teach until after Phase II.
Cost: Experiential Anatomy (formerly Phase I): $620 plus materials; Phase II: $1,250 plus materials.
The Feldenkrais Method
If you have a knack for spotting patterns of motion, then training in the Feldenkrais Method may be for you, especially if you are interested in injury prevention. Started by physicist and martial artist Moshe Feldenkrais, the Method helps people realize their full potential through the two modalities: a group movement class called Awareness Through Movement (ATM), and the one-on-one hands-on work called Functional Integration (FI). As a dance teacher, you are used to being in front of the room, so teaching ATM is a natural fit. It's a group class, open for movers of any skill level. However, there is no demonstration, so you need to improve your movement description skills.
Currently there are trainings happening all over the world. Dancer/choreographer Cathy Paine says she sees Feldenkrais connections to subtler forms of dancing. "I found many parallels in Contact Improvisation," she says. "Using the bones for support, and 'less is more' come to mind."
The details:740–800 hours of training over three to four years.
Cost: approximately $4,000 per year.
Klein Technique fosters a deep level of knowledge and understanding of the full use of the body, with an emphasis on the role of the bones in movement and functional anatomy of the structural muscles: the psoas, the hamstrings, the pelvic floor and the external rotators. The goal is to increase efficiency and decrease risk of injury by improving alignment.
Before you begin the certification process, you need to have the basics of Klein Technique in your body. Training is based on a mentorship model and is a nuanced and continually evolving process. You will work closely with founder Susan Klein. "I think it would be great for dance teachers," she says, "because it is a somatic-based dance technique that aims to increase a dancer’s function and decrease injuries at the same time."
Certification requires two to five years of study with Klein before training and an invitation to join the program, which lasts approximately three years.
Cost: approximately $2,000 per year.
Dancers are drawn to Gyrotonic for its spiral, circular and undulating form performed on innovative apparatuses: the professional pulley tower, the archway, the leg extension unit, the jumping stretching board and the Gyrotoner. Founded by former ballet dancer Juliu Horvath, Gyrotonic training is always evolving as new equipment and methods enter the work. You might also consider the Gyrokinesis training, a group movement modality that requires only a stool and a mat.
Gyrotonic trainer and modern dance and ballet teacher Patricia Farkas Sprague found the work deeply connected to her dancing self. "My body felt so good doing it that it helped fill that void of not dancing or performing anymore. The movement is so dancer-friendly, I even do it to music," says Sprague, owner of Body One Studios. "After 12 years of teaching Gyrotonic, it has helped me to enhance my skill of teaching both in classical ballet and contemporary dance, to help students move beyond their limitations, to understand the real definition of energy and to initiate all movement from a strong center to create a long and articulate spine. I love to see the results not only in my dancers but in my own studio clientele."
Training involves pre-training, a foundation teacher-training course, apprenticeship and a Level I certification course.
The Pilates Method Alliance recommends at least 450 hours of training over the course of a year or more to become certified. Look for a program that offers both practical and written exams and a significant number of hours in order to fully embody the material.
Dance teacher and Pilates instructor Patricia Erickson integrates matwork in her dance classes now. "The classical method has flow and dynamic movement that feels like the flow of dance," she says. "Being a Pilates teacher has certainly made me a safer and more effective dance teacher. Anatomy study has been crucial in educating young dancers about actual body mechanics instead of wishful thinking. Instead of demanding unattainable ideals in terms of alignment, I can strengthen and stretch the dancers at the beginning of class, at the end of barre and at the end of class as needed. Had I done Pilates as a ballet student myself, I would have avoided many unnecessary injuries."
Trainings range from 450 to more than 750 hours.
Zumba combines four basic rhythms (merengue, salsa, cumbia, reggaeton) in a fun fitness class that is popular with dance lovers of all ages and fitness levels. After your first training, you are ready to teach your first class.
Nick Logrea first investigated Zumba as a way for his family studio to increase revenue. "After I took the training I was hooked. I love dancing to my favorite kind of music," says Logrea, who teaches jazz, tap and Zumba at the Logrea Dance Academy in Ossining, New York. "I really like the fitness aspect, too, but Zumba also really opened up my creativity. I use Zumba steps that the kids have never seen before in my jazz combinations, which really adds a lot of flavor."
Zumba offers seven levels of daylong training. You can teach your first class after Zumba Basic.
Cost: $185–300 for one day.
Arts writer Nancy Wozny taught dance and somatics for 20 years.
Photo: teaching Alexander Technique (by Natalie Fiol, courtesy of AmSAT)