Teachers & Role Models

Teachers Share Their Go-to Daily Tools for Success–Part 2

Talya Dozois is the competition artistic director at Platinum Dance Center. Photo courtesy of Platinum Dance Center

Being a dance teacher can be difficult. To be the best teacher for your students, it's important to maintain the best version of yourself. From workout regiments to favorite snacks and books, three teachers reveal what motivates them to be on top of their game.


Istvan Cserven, Director of Dance at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Belmont, Massachusetts

Photo courtesy of Fred Astaire Dance Studio

FAVORITE FOOTWEAR: For teaching: Supadance Black Patent shoes; for competitions: Dance Naturals for Latin and rhythm dances.

TRAINING TOOLS: Thera-Band for experiencing resistance, sticks to practice the dance hold and hardcover books on top of the head for practicing posture and alignment.

POWER BREAKFAST: "I have a green drink every morning, which includes celery, cucumber, spinach, kale, collard greens and avocado blended together."

RECOMMENDED READING: The Revised Technique of Ballroom Dancing, by Alex Moore, and its later revisions by ISTD (Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing). "This is the dance bible for competitive ballroom dancing."

WATCH THIS: Anne Gleave's Portrait of the Lady Dancer instructional DVD.



Talya Dozois, competition artistic director at Platinum Dance Center in Edina, Minnesota

Photo courtesy of Platinum Dance Center

MUST-HAVE FITNESS SUPPLIES: A tennis ball to roll out her arches, a foam roller for sore or tight muscles and light weights for building arm strength.

TRAINING TOOL: A BOSU Balance Trainer. "It's amazing to see that even dancers who have strong centers often need extra help once they're on it."

TO CROSS-TRAIN: Pilates and spin classes

RECOMMENDED READING: Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. "I have found it helpful in both my work and personal life. It's a good reminder that creating something takes constant work."


WATCH THIS: The KBMTalent YouTube channel. "The videos break down new tricks to introduce to dancers."


Susan Russo, The Theresa Academy of Performing Arts in Long Beach, New York

Russo leads a class through Anne Green Gilbert's BrainDance. Photo by Diane Modico, courtesy of the Theresa Academy

TO WARM UP: "I warm up with Anne Green Gilbert's BrainDance. I find that it is just as suitable for my 63-year-old body as it is for the bodies and brains of my young, pliable students."


MUST-HAVE FITNESS SUPPLIES: A Pilates toning ring and a deep-tissue massage roller. "I use these items to keep my alignment where it should be, stretch my hamstrings and roll out kinks in my back and hips."

IN-CLASS PROPS: "Many of our students have tactile/sensory issues, so we use many props to aid in addressing those issues." Space spots, scarves of all sizes and colors, elastic bands, ribbons, drums, maracas, bells, hula hoops, balls, cones and parachutes.

FAVORITE NONDANCE ACTIVITY: "To me, quilting is choreographing with fabric. I really enjoy working with beautiful fabrics."

INSPIRATIONAL READING: Creative Dance for All Ages, by Anne Green Gilbert; Doris Humphrey's The Art of Making Dances; and A Life for Dance, by Rudolf von Laban.

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."

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