Playing to Win:
Raising Children in a Competitive Culture
by Hilary Levey Friedman
298 pages, $29.95
For her book Playing to Win, Harvard graduate Hilary Levey Friedman spent nine months observing competitive dance through the lens of two Boston-area dance studios (I.D.-ed with pseudonyms). The question on her mind: Does involvement in a win-or-lose culture help students succeed? Friedman chose three activities to find the answer—dance, soccer and chess. She watched classes at Elite Dance Academy in Metroville and Let’s Dance Studio in Westbrook, and she traveled with them to regional and national events, talking to teachers, parents and students.
Her question is difficult to answer. She admits that there’s no way to know if these kids are accepted to better colleges, work in more prestigious careers or achieve greater upward socioeconomic mobility than those in noncompetitive extracurriculars. What is clear is that competition, though sometimes flawed, teaches young people how to perform under pressure, recover from public failure and work toward long-term goals, among other lessons. And that “competitive kid capital” as she calls it, expands the possibilities of what young people believe they can achieve later in life, pushing them to set their goals a bit higher than the rest.
Four incredible educators: Joanne Chapman, Claudio Muñoz, Pamela VanGilder and Kathleen Isaac foster their students' love of dance, whether instilling artistry, offering rigorous training or giving special needs students an outlet through movement.
When Jennie Somogyi retired from New York City Ballet, she found herself in high demand as a teacher. Parents called, texted and persisted. "I don't even know how some of them got my contact information," she says with a laugh. But Somogyi, who departed from NYCB in 2015 after a 22-year career, hadn't made any definitive plans for the next stage of her life. "I just like to see how things move me," she says. She discovered, though, that she enjoyed the process of giving private lessons and seeing the rapid progress students could make. Over time, she realized that teaching was something she wanted rather than needed.
Does your studio slow down when the weather warms up? If you don't offer a summer session, June through August can be a cash-flow challenge. One popular—and easy—strategy is to offer weeklong camps instead. We spoke to three professionals to learn how they make summer camp work.
This week Ballet Hispánico launched its first ChoreoLaB workshop, a summer intensive intended to better prepare aspiring professional dancers—with more than just excellent technique. Artistic director Eduardo Vilaro wanted to create a program that bridges the school and the company, to help dancers transitioning into the professional world and better hone their skills.
The language of Mind Body Dancer is dynamic. "Action words stimulate change in your students," says yoga teacher TaraMarie Perri. "Try 'pour,' 'push' and 'experience' –not 'feel' or 'do or don't' Those words don't mean anything." Here, Perri and dancer Maggie Ronan use the active MBD language to demonstrate yoga poses used as a warm-up in many dance classes. While practicing, be sure to inhale and exhale in steady cycles.