Today we're featuring DT Summit ambassador Bonnie Schuetz, who has owned Boni's Dance & Performing Arts Studio in The Woodlands and Spring, Texas, for more than 30 years. We spoke to her about keeping her dancers healthy during performance season and asked her to reflect on her first year as an ambassador.

Boni’s Dance & Performing Arts Studio

Number of students: 1,600

Boni's Dance & Performing Arts students in The Nutcracker

Dance Teacher: Your company students perform over 12 times per year—at competitions, community shows, recitals and The Nutcracker. How do you make sure that they aren’t overdoing it as they prepare for these performances?

Bonnie Schuetz: We really try not to push our kids. I monitor them as much as possible. During Nutcracker season, I don’t like them to have competition solo or duet rehearsals on weekends. In fact, I don’t allow them at all on Sundays, which is the day of our Nutcracker rehearsals. We want the dancers to have lives, to be kids and teenagers, to go to homecoming, etc. It makes us a much happier family.

And when they are injured, I make sure that they’re not trying to dance. If their doctor’s note says six weeks off, they’re going to be off for six weeks. Their bones are soft, and they’ve got to rest. We’re really careful.

DT: 2011 was your first year as a Dance Teacher Summit ambassador. What was it like?

BS: In previous years, I just had so much in my brain that I wanted to share. This year, I was thrilled that I got an opportunity to do that. I’ve been a teacher for over 40 years and had my studio for more than 30, but I still learn something every time I go to the Summit. I think my favorite thing is just to sit around that round table and talk.

DT: What was the main message of the seminar that you ran, “Pre-School Ideas”?

BS: Adding programming for preschoolers can really be the bread and butter of your business. Studio owners love teaching, but they have to remember that it is also a business. For some reason people think that dance teachers aren’t supposed to make any money. Most of us would just do this from the bottom of our hearts—and I did that for years—but we can also be successful businesspeople if we think outside of the box. The best way to make money is to take advantage of your existing clientele. They’re already in your building, so just sell them something else. —Rachel Zar

Photos from top: courtesy of Bonnie Schuetz; by Brenda Bolton, courtesy of Bonnie Schuetz

How-To

Introducing and teaching rhythm can seem easy, but in reality it can prove to be a complicated concept—especially for younger dancers to grasp. At Ballet Hispánico's School of Dance in New York City, Los Explorers for 3- to 5-year-olds uses classic salsa and tango music to help kids acquire rhythmic awareness.

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How-To
Todd Rosenlieb, left, of The Governor's School for the Arts. Photo by Victor Frailing, courtesy of Todd Rosenlieb

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Memorizing choreography is an essential skill for dancers. Fast learners have more time to work on the technique and artistry within a combination, and they are often the first to catch the eyes of directors. Like most skills, learning pace can be improved. Encouraging students to develop their own memorization methods will help them approach choreography with confidence.

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Dancer Health
Neuromuscular expert Deborah Vogel with Jordan Lazan, right. Photo by Jim Lafferty

By strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot and ankle, a dancer can help prevent or correct existing pronation. Having strong intrinsic foot muscles keeps the arches aligned, preventing them from dropping inward.

Here, Vogel shares three strengthening exercises to help correct and prevent pronation. She advises dancers to include these in their cross-training regimen.

Mobilize your ankles. (Step 1)

For this ankle mobilization exercise, having a TheraBand wrapped around your ankles puts pressure on your feet to pronate. By resisting that action and keeping your feet centered through the relevé, you're essentially training the ankle where center is.

  • Sitting up straight in a chair, with your feet planted on the floor a few inches apart, tie a TheraBand in a loop around your ankles. You can place a yoga block vertically in between your knees to maintain space between your legs.

Next Page
How-To
Photo courtesy of New York Live Arts

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If that approach sounds borderline insane to you (we know you're all deep in the throes of recital season right now), consider Robbins' unique teaching philosophy: Improvisation is present in every aspect of class, for every age group. Here are four ways she shapes her youngest dancers into choreographers—almost without their realizing it!

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Teachers & Role Models
Former students of Kelley gather around a cardboard cutout made in his honor at the recent tribute. Photo courtesy of Merritt

Every dancer has a teacher who makes an impression. The kind of impression that makes you want to become a dancer or a teacher in the first place. For Mara Merritt, owner of Merritt Dance Center in Schenectady, NY, and countless others, that teacher was Charles Kelley.

Known as "Chuck" to most, Kelley was born December 4, 1936. He was a master teacher in tap, jazz and acrobatics, who wrote syllabuses for national dance conventions like Dance Masters of America. Growing up in upstate New York, Merritt's parents, both dance teachers, took her into Manhattan every Friday to study with Kelley. First at the old Ed Sullivan Theater and the New York Center of Dance in Times Square, then years later at Broadway Dance Center.

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