By Karen Hildebrand

As I’m writing this note, it’s June and summer is still a new bloom. The beach is open, the days are deliciously long, we’re nursing the first sunburns of the season—New York City public schools are still in session. How odd it seems to jump so quickly to summer’s end and the Back to School issue. But that’s the nature of magazines—we’re always planning ahead. And so are you.

Even so, as this issue finds its way into your hands, back-to-school may feel premature. August is the month after Nationals, after summer intensives. August is your opportunity to rest and revive, right? One way to accomplish both goals—to refuel as well as build your future—is continuing education.

“I’ve seen a lot of teachers teaching the way they were taught,” says Abigail Agresta-Stratton, whom we interviewed for “10 Lessons Studio Teachers Can Borrow from the Classroom.” “They went to college, but maybe they never went back, and the teaching stagnates.” Agresta-Stratton has taught in both K–12 and studio settings and makes pedagogy training her top recommendation. “You have to really have an understanding of childhood development, of what is appropriate for each age,” she says. “For instance, you can’t do a class with one hand on barre at 4 years old. Or, what steps should they learn before skipping?”

There are many ways to get this kind of training, including an online professional development option available through the National Dance Education Organization (ndeo.org). Kudos to those of you who are right now kicking off your August by attending our Dance Teacher Summit here in NYC for three days of workshops, panels and networking opportunities, plus an exhibit floor brimming over with the best products and services offered in the industry. It’s a great way to prepare for your fall session and the year ahead.

As is this, the annual Back to School issue. A major focus this month is on noncompeting dancers. We recommend you start with the story of Jason Warley and how he builds the confidence of dancers who don’t make it into the elite competition company. Sue Sampson-Dalena discusses details of her studio’s recreational program. And in “Choosing Not to Compete,” studio directors talk about how that decision impacts their businesses. Whether or not you offer a competition program at your school, you’ll be inspired by these strategies for making dance training a great experience for all.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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Dancer Health
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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?

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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!

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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.

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