Dear dance teachers,

As I gaze at my daughter's first tiny pair of ballet shoes and reflect on all the memories that come with them, I'm flooded with mixed emotions. Choosing to put her in dance was one of the best decisions I made. At the time, we didn't know it would become her second home and bring with it a lifetime of warm, wonderful and joyous memories. As she takes the stage for her last recital, her smile will tell the world how much she loves to dance. There are not enough words to express my gratitude, but I'll try.


Thank you for taking my shy little girl and teaching her to dance. She broke out of her shell and grew into the young lady she is today. Dance taught her to put her heart into whatever she does.

Thank you for teaching my girl how to use her passion, work hard all year long and reach her personal best. As a dancer in the competition troupe, she learned what it really means to be a member of a team. I watched her gain tenacity, strength and humility. She learned how to get back in the game—after some tough moments—and how to appreciate the journey, which are lessons she'll take with her everywhere.

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Thank you for supporting her every day in the studio, at competitions and conventions with long, long hours, while stranded in hotels during snowstorms, or when we're having the time of our lives at Hershey, New York City and Disney. These are memories that will remain with us forever.

Thank you for becoming our extended family. The dance family and friends are like no other people in the world—they've been some of the most special people to walk into our lives. The dance teachers who have shared their talents with her will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Mere thank-yous for 13 years of gratitude certainly do not seem enough. My girl is a beautiful dancer today because of you. It was worth every costume, crazy hairstyle, dance step and penny to be a part of this beautiful story of dance. As she takes her final bow, she will represent all of the hard work, courage and strength it took for you to get her to this special moment.

With love and gratitude,

Cindy Lutz—forever a dance mom

Dance Buzz
PC Break the Floor

Two competition routines are equal in technical proficiency, artistry and choreography. One consists of all girls, the other includes a boy. Guess which takes home first prize?

If you guessed the one with the boy, you may be privy to an unspoken and much-debated phenomenon in the competition dance world: The Boy Factor. According to The Boy Factor, a competitive piece is more likely to win if there's a boy in it.

"If it's all technically equal and one group is all girls and the other group has a boy, the one with the boy will win," says Rysa Childress, owner of All Star Studios in Forest Hills, New York. "Boy soloists are sometimes scored higher than more technically proficient girls because if a boy has good stage presence, we let him slide," says an anonymous competition judge. "And most of the feedback will be for the boy."



The Boy Factor doesn't just have to do with competition scores: It's how we treat boys throughout their dance education. "We idolize the boys," says Ashley Harnish, a teacher at a competition studio. "We build entire dances around one boy, and we teach them that we need them more than we need the girls."

On the surface, The Boy Factor is flagrant sexism. But what's really behind the phenomenon? "So often, young male dancers are bullied because our culture says that dance is for girls," says a second national competition adjudicator. "This stigma pushes some judges to reward boys by scoring them higher than their female competitors." The Boy Factor also stems from a simple fact: There are far more girls than boys in the dance world.

"Judges see boys as valuable commodities," says Marissa Jean, a staff member at Broadway Dance Center's new building for children and teens and a teacher at several competition studios. "To encourage their career in dance, judges will throw a little extra their way. It could be placing them in the top ten or giving them a special award. They nurture them a bit more than the girls."



But by trying to retain more male talent, are we suggesting to girls that they are less valuable to the dance world than boys? "There's so much about this getting into these kids' psyches," says Childress. "Like, 'Oh the boy will beat me no matter what.' How do we teach self-worth knowing that you're going up against a boy, so what's the point?"

The Boy Factor is a product of and a contributor to the culture that sends the few men in dance up the glass escalator: "Many boys growing up in the dance world are not told the word 'no' often, so they tend to climb the professional ranks more quickly than the women," says Jean. We often bemoan the absence of female leadership in dance, but the damage is already done if we've taught young women that their gender determines their value to our community.

So what can be done about The Boy Factor? First, we could change how we encourage boys to continue dancing. Instead of empowering young men by devaluing young women, we could work as a community to dispel the culture of toxic masculinity that discourages boys from pursuing dance in the first place.

But it also falls in the hands of judges and teachers. "We need to increase awareness," says the second adjudicator. "A lot of us judges don't realize what we are promoting and the messages we send through our scoring and awards. If enough of us band together, I think we can make a difference so that this part of our field is less toxic."

How-To
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Q: Do you have any advice for how to clean competition pieces?

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Dance Buzz
Kenedy Kallas (via Instagram)

Every true dancer knows just how valuable a perfectly arched foot that curves effortlessly from the ankle to the end of the toes is to a performance. In fact, it's so important, it seems we've all taken an unofficial pact to spend inordinate amounts of time stretching our feet with ominous looking contraptions that cause us severe pain. We are completely crazy! With good reason, but crazy, nonetheless.

In order to keep us all inspired to stretch our toes until they are drool-worthy, DT compiled a list of five dancers whose feet we have a very real crush on. Honestly, these guys should get their toes insured! Truly, they are perfect.

Check 'em out!

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Q: After running my studio six days a week for 20 years, it's time for me to delegate. How can I transition into a shared-workload system with my teachers?

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Students need strong feet for pointe work, but few concentrate on their toes specifically. "Fatigue sets in and they start knuckling," says Atlanta Ballet podiatrist Dr. Frank Sinkoe. This puts excess pressure on the nails, causing bruising. The exercises below strengthen the arch and intrinsic muscles, which flex the toes and support the feet.

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Your Studio
What are your non-negotiables? Share on Dance Teacher's Facebook page.

It could be argued that half the battle of owning a dance studio is getting people to follow the rules. To ensure your business will run like a well-oiled machine, it helps to have clear expectations in place for students and their families—and, most important, to make sure everyone knows them from day one. Of course, every school is unique, and behavior that may be acceptable to you might be out of the question for someone else. "There are so many studios out there," says Dana McGuire, a studio co-owner in North Kansas City, Missouri. "Know and stand by what you're about." Here, four seasoned studio directors discuss the issues they consider non-negotiable.

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Dancer Health
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I have a student who's going through a growth spurt, and I'm wondering what advice I should give her. Is there anything you recommend?

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