When Rocky Bornstein got accepted into the two-year, full-time, PT program at Hunter College, she thought her life was over. “Initially, the transition was hard in terms of identity,” she says.

So during her first year, she still toured with Yoshiko Chuma and The School of Hard Knocks, and performed in the company’s New York Joyce Theater season. “That was really hard,” she admits. In her second year, she concentrated on school only, as she found it was academically overwhelming. “I had to immerse myself and prioritize,” she says.

Bornstein was born to move, so at age 5 she began training at Florida’s Miami Conservatory of Ballet. “It was the feeder school for the Miami Ballet, and at 14 years old, I was asked to join the company,” she says. But she longed to master different movement styles, so her mom located a Graham-based modern studio, with a performance outlet called the Sacred Dance Company. It was there that Bornstein flourished and became an accomplished technician and performer.

 At 18 she joined Otrabanda Company, a movement-based theater group that traveled the world. She briefly settled in Asia, but eventually headed to New York to focus more fully on her dance career. She hit the city with a bang, dancing for downtown artists like Timothy Buckley, Sara Rudner, and Yoshiko Chuma, and choreographing for theater groups like Otrabanda and the Talking Band.

Though she frequently taught, Bornstein couldn’t imagine life as a teacher. As her two daughters began to grow, she realized it was time to look into career alternatives. “I really wanted to do something that offered financial and job security,” she recalls. “I wanted something mainstream, and that would challenge my thinking,” she says.

Though Bornstein had never been to physical therapy, (she’s remained injury-free throughout her career) being a healthy mover was “the most important thing in my life. I chose physical therapy because I thought I could communicate my passion for movement to other people, and help them move, too. Movement is essential, and doesn’t have to relate only to dancers,” she says.

It took her five years to complete the pre-requisites for physical therapy school, during which time she continued dancing professionally. “I’d go on tour, carrying a heavy anatomy book,” she remembers. “I did it slowly, one class at a time until I finished,” she says. This allowed her to still be committed to her dancing life, without ending it abruptly. “But I was looking to the future,” she says.

One of Bornstein’s school internships took place at Westside Dance Physical Therapy on Manhattan‘s Upper West Side. Says Bornstein, “That’s how I met Marika (Molnar, the founder of WSD) and found out about working with injured dancers and ‘civilians.’ I was hired there when I finished school,” she says.
Bornstein believes that dancers shouldn’t be afraid to enter new professions. “Most dancers retire in their late 30s or 40s, which gives them plenty of time to become excellent at what they do,” she says. “Dancers invest time, energy, and discipline into what they love, and they know how to learn new material.” Says Bornstein, “Never forget that you can use your brain in a different way. All the assets you have as a dancer will help you to achieve other goals.”

Dancer Health

The Feldenkrais Method is a somatic technique created by Moshe Feldenkrais in the 1950s. The method has two parts: hands-on sessions with a Feldenkrais teacher (Functional Integration) or group classes comprised of verbal cues (Awareness Through Movement).

Mary Armentrout, a dance teacher, choreographer and Feldenkrais practitioner, shares three ways that this somatic practice can bolster your students' training.

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Your Studio

Oversexualizing young kids has been a hot topic among dance teachers in recent years. It's arguably the most controversial topic teachers and studio owners are faced with. Deciding which choreography, music or costumes are appropriate—or not—isn't always black and white and can be easily overlooked. Is showing the midriff too much for minis? Is this choreography too provocative? Is this popular song too suggestive for a competition piece? The questions can seem endless with no clear objective answers. Until now.

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Dancer Health
To make dancers stronger and less injury-prone, Burns Wilson suggest adding floor barre or conditioning classes. Photo courtesy of Burns Wilson

With a career spanning 30-plus years in the dance field, Anneliese Burns Wilson has cultivated a unique perspective on health and injury prevention for dancers. From teaching ballet to teaching anatomy, she then founded ABC for Dance, which publishes dance-teaching materials. Now through research for her next book, which will focus on training the female adolescent dancer, she's delving even deeper into topics many dance teachers have overlooked.

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Erdmann (left) on set for "Hairspray Live" (courtesy of Erdmann)

When Wicked ensemble member Kelli Erdman was training at Westlake Dance Center in Seattle, Washington, her teacher Kirsten Cooper taught her that focussed transitions would be pivotal to her success as a dancer. Now as a professional, she applies this advice to her daily performances, asserting that she will never let the details of her dancing get blurry.

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Teachers & Role Models
Khobdeh dancing Taylor's Speaking In Tongues. Photo courtesy of PTDC

For Parisa Khobdeh, music does more than set the tone for a piece—it's enabled her to connect with movement. And once she joined Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2003, Taylor's body of work deepened this connection. "His choreography showed me the music, the architecture and the space," she says. "I now see the music."

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Dance Buzz

We haven't been able to stop watching Lil' Mushroom since she popped and locked her way into Ellen's heart last week. We know you've got a long night of teaching ahead, and this is the dance inspiration you need to get you through. Check it out and tell us what you think about her killer moves over on our Facebook page! (She starts blowing minds at about 2:16.)

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How-To

Because the chassé is often neglected during the execution of this traveling step, Judy Rice asks her students to do a minimum of a six-inch chassé before transitioning into the pas de bourrée. She encourages dancers to pay close attention to their shoulders and hips in effacé, too. "Kids tend to open it up. They look like they're fencing," she says. "You don't want that." Both shoulders and hip bones should be facing the corner.

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